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How to Keep Your Grown Trees Healthy

Trees are beneficial not just for the look of your yard, but for their shade, and their benefits to wildlife and other plants. Protect them using these tips.

  • Know the type of trees you have, and their needs based on those. What type of soil is best for them to grow in? How much water do they need to get? Are they tolerant to drought? What are they sensitive to; strong wind, drought, pests, etc.?
  • Protect their roots: Healthy roots=healthy trees, so soil can affect their health. Compacted soil is detrimental; they need air space for their roots to receive adequate water and nutritional absorption. Imagine an imaginary circle on the ground around your tree, with its border based on where the branches above extend to. Don’t change the soil inside of this area right around the tree; it can truly affect its health.
  • Protect their bark: Bark protects trees from things like fungal and bacterial infections. Be aware of nearby sprinkler heads, branches that keep rubbing together, lawn equipment, cars, and anything else that could potentially harm them.
  • Protect them from drought: Usually grown trees have an easier time withstanding against water shortages and drought, but you still should probably take precautionary actions. They won’t need extra water in winter unless they’re very young. Give them infrequent, deep waterings in all other seasons if there’s a drought, and make sure their soil stays healthy.
  • Prune them if needed: Winter is the best time to prune your grown trees. If you’re not sure how to do this, get a professional’s help. Be aware of any branches that are crossing and rubbing together, broken and dead branches, and especially low branches.
  • Make sure their soil is healthy: Place a two to four-inch layer of mulch or leaves from your yard around your trees. This enriches the soil, aids nutrient absorption, and lets the soil retain moisture. If you don’t want to use mulch or fallen leaves, you can plant grasses or ground-covering, shade-tolerant plants; these will do what the mulch would have done. Be sure to use plants with spreading roots so they won’t compete with the trees’.
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What to Think About When You Remodel Your Laundry Room

There are more options than you may think to change up your laundry room. Here are some things to think about if you plan on remodeling it.

  1. How do you want the space to function differently than before? Do you want to add storage? Do you want to add a sink? What about a creating new look? As long as you know what it is you want to change or add, you’ll have a clearer vision for the process.
  2. How do you do laundry? How often do you do it, and how does that impact your decision for the remodel? Also, the way you perform the processes of washing, drying, and folding clothes will paint a clearer picture of how much room you need in the laundry room, and how you need to arrange everything in it. Where do you fold your clothes; will you need more space if you fold them in the laundry room? How many people do you have in your family? Will you need space for more hampers? Will you need drying racks or ironing boards for your clothes? Do you need extra lighting put in, if there’s not enough natural light now?
  3. How many appliances do you have, and where do they need to be placed? This might depend on the heights of members in your family, if stacking them is an option. On this same note, do you want top or front-loading appliances?
  4. Do your research and set a budget accordingly. Don’t just research costs and intensity of renovation options, but a contractor if you’ll need one as well.
  5. Decide on a style. After you’ve decided the main things, the details can fall into place. How important is it to you to make the room look extra nice? What colors, textures, or patterns do you want? Is there a theme you like? Are tile and wallpaper options you like?
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What Not to Put in Your New House

Having certain home items hanging around sounds better in theory than it actually is. Here’s what not to include in your new house.

Too Many Knick-Knacks or Items Purely for Decoration
A room can quickly become too cluttered simply from having oodles of objects everywhere. Try and pare it down if this is the case for you. Obviously, the essentials are the most important to buy/have first. If you do buy some extra non-essentials, spring for mirrors, plants, and art first. These are always classics, and you won’t have to rotate them out for something that just became “trendy” twenty minutes ago. They are staples in making a room appear bigger, “fresher”, and more vibrant.

“Organized” Clutter
Don’t just accommodate your clutter by placing it in organizers that you buy. Actually go through and really eliminate the essentials from the rest. What do you actually use? How many times a year? This will save you some money, because you’ll need less organizer space to fit what’s left. Hooks and baskets can be used both for decoration and for functionality.

Rarely Used Dishware & Appliances
Dishware that is “themed” with holiday motif can be more of a hindrance than a benefit if it takes up too much space when compared with how often you actually use it. This also applies to fine china, if you have too much of it. It may be a good idea to stick to more classic wooden and white ceramic dishware. Also, be sure to really ask yourself how often you’ll use appliances before you buy them. That big $400 juicer sounds good in theory, but will you really be using it every day 2 months from now, like you tell yourself you will? Single-purpose things like this can create this dilemma.

Anything “Trendy” That Will be Out of Date Soon
You may be tempted to spring for that ~super cute~ cutlery to introduce into your new house, but a basic, elegant design will be better in the long run. This applies to nearly anything. Sure, you’ll probably change your decor up some over time, but don’t fall prey to the newest trend every 5 minutes. You’ll save space and money.

Too Many of Any One Thing
Are you one of those people with 3 linen closets full of towels? You really don’t need that many duplicates of anything, unless you have a family of ten. This applies, but isn’t limited to, kitchen utensils, throw pillows, blankets, coffee mugs, etc.

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How to Maximize a Small Garden

It may seem like you’re stuck with limited options to make your small garden look good, but there are actually more options than you would think.

  • Have pots overflowing with plants. Use different shapes, sizes, and textures of pots, planters, tubs, buckets, and window boxes, and use plants with different shapes and colors (You could even use dwarf trees!) You could also stack these to create tiers. All of these create an array of focal points and depth.
  • Raised beds in planters: These are an option if what you want to grow in them needs a different soil, fertilizer, etc. than the surrounding area. It’s also a way to visually “break up” an herb garden or whatever else from the rest of the garden. Another option is to use tray tables. You could also stack planters on top of each other against a wall or fence, or put them inside gutters fixed to a fence.
  • Up-cycle tires by planting things in them.
  • Hang or place small terrariums around your garden to create more height and interesting elements to look at.
  • Hang colanders with plants for a vintage-y look.
  • Fill a birdbath with succulents.
  • Hang a shoe organizer or apron with segmented pockets over a wall or trellis, and fill the compartments with small plants.  Another option is to attach small potted plants (or plants in tin cans) to a vertical pallet, re-purposed shutters, or wooden ladder.
  • Lay pallets down and grow herbs or plants in the slots to “organize” them.
  • Re-purpose a dresser or table by putting plants inside the drawers.
  • Re-purpose a chair by removing its seat to replace with a plant.
  • Have a climbing plant on a patio wall or trellis.
  • Grow ivy over a fence to hide a part of the garden or yard from sight; it will seem bigger if you aren’t sure where it ends.
  • Use ivy and creeping plants to cover large portions of your garden. It’s less maintenance, and can make it appear larger.
  • Lay stepping stones or large cement tiles in places with a lot of shade; it’s easier than maintaining patchy grass. small garden small garden small garden
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Questions to Ask Sellers When Looking at Houses to Buy

There are many details involved in determining the right house to buy, and these details actually communicate the overall quality of a house to you.

  1. Why are you selling?: There are many factors that can create a need for someone to move. Depending on the reason, the seller may be willing to accept a lower offer if it means they can move out more quickly.
  2. How long has the home been on the market?: Once again, putting in a lower offer could mean acceptance in this scenario. There could possibly be also something wrong with it if it’s been on the market for a while, but many times it’s simply the fact that it’s over-priced.
  3. When did you buy the home, and for how much?: This will let you know if property values have gone up or down in the local market since they bought the house. Also, it will let you know how open they might be to negotiation; if they got a good deal on the house, they may be more open to accepting a lower offer, compared to if they spent a lot on the house.
  4. What’s included in the sale?: Anything that’s attached to the house is considered a “fixture” and is included with the sale of the house if you buy it. When in doubt, ask and get the answer in writing.
  5. Is there anything wrong with the house?: Although you should find out everything in disclosures and the inspection, it’s nice to know what you’re getting yourself into beforehand.
  6. Has the house had any repairs or major renovations; if so, who did them?: Past problems can create present or future problems. Also, you need to know what past projects you should receive building permits for. You also need to know if the changed made to the house were DIY or performed by a licensed contractor.
  7. How old is the roof?: A typical asphalt roof lasts around 15-20 years. If the lifespan on this one is almost up, then you’ll be putting down a chunk of money in the near future.
  8. What’s the age of the wiring?: Depending on the age of the house, wiring can be dangerous if it hasn’t been replaced in a while (and costly at that).
  9. What’s the age of the windows; will they need to be replaced?: Old windows can have a huge impact on energy bills. Replacing windows is expensive, but it’s probably better to know about in the long run.
  10. Are there issues with the home’s foundation?: This is an important thing to know, because the structural integrity is one of the key elements of a home.
  11. Is there obvious water damage?: If there’s a basement, you can check it out to see if you think there’s been water; if it’s carpeted and doesn’t smell musty, it’s probably never had water damage, but if the utilities are raised off the ground, then it may have had damage in the past.
  12. What’s the current quality of the sewer system?: If there’s anything wrong, the homeowner (not the city) pays to fix it. Looking at the condition of the sewer lines aren’t typically part of a home inspection, so it may be good to get them checked out.
  13. Have insurance claims been made on the home?: This also lets you find out if there have been any past problems with the house. Also, if there’s a stream, creek, etc. near the house, you need to know if you’ll need flood insurance before you buy it.
  14. Where are the trees located around the house; what’s their quality?: Are any rotted, dead, and/or have the possible of falling onto your house in a storm? Will any of them block out the sun too much?
  15. Are there any current or past pest problems?: Ask, and also look around inside cabinets and moist places for pests and their traces.
  16. Does the ground slope away from the house?: The grading of your house is important; it affects the direction of the water flow around your home. Too much water directed towards the house=bad.
  17. What are the neighbors like; are there any neighborhood problems?: Bad neighbors, traffic problems, bad maintenance, bright lights, and more can all be advantageous to know about before you buy it. You can even talk to a few neighbors to gather more information about these things.
  18. Have there been break-ins in the neighborhood; if so, have you seen an increase?: Always good to know. Also important when determining if you’d need an alarm system.
  19. How much are the utilities for the house?: Sure, your usage will be different, but you can probably get a ballpark figure, and discern how many bills to expect.
  20. What surprised you when you moved in?: Because even if it’s a pleasant surprise, it’s still beneficial to know.
  21. What do you enjoy most about living here?: You’ll probably hear a perspective on something about the house or community that you wouldn’t have known otherwise.
  22. Is there anything I/we forgot to ask?: This of course gives them a chance to tell you what you wouldn’t have thought or have known to ask.
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What Happens in a Sellers’ Market?

A sellers’ market is different from the regular housing market– expect more buyers, less inventory, and a need to move quickly.

  • There’s not much to choose from: Homes will get snatched up seemingly right after going on the market. Inventory is low due to the large number of buyers.
  • Cash speaks volumes: Usually cash offers beat out any other kind. They become more common in a sellers’ market.
  • Seller preferences are taken into account even more: Buyers’ agents will work extra hard to figure out what it is that makes the sellers tick in order to get their offer approved. Would the seller prefer a quicker closing date over a little extra cash? Would they be touched by a heartfelt note from a new family? These things are weighed more.
  • Bidding wars are everyday occurrences: When the inventory is lower, more people will be vying for the same properties. There will be multiple people putting offers in, and usually each of those people making multiple offers. All of this is even more common if the property’s listing price is just right.
  • Selling price gets raised above asking price: This is often a direct result of a bidding war. When a property is at the “sweet spot” of just under or at the home’s true value, multiple buyers will be attracted to it and each put their bid in, raising the price.
  • Offer deadlines: These create urgency for the buyers to put their offers in and to keep outbidding the others.
  • Escalation clause: These typically aren’t  very common, but in a sellers’ market, they are more common. These are included in an offer, and let the seller know you’re willing to increase the amount of your offer up to a certain point if there are other higher bids.
  • As a buyer, be ready to act quickly: This is no time to wait too long to make a decision. Obviously mull it over, but if you wait too long, you run a high chance of missing out on getting the house. “The home you saw today and want to think about tonight, is the home someone else saw yesterday and thought about last night.”
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Current Kitchen Trends – May 2016

Home trends may come and go, but some also stick around for a while-especially kitchen trends. Here is a list of the latest ones.

  • Muted color palettes: Grays, charcoals, and even muted pastels are making their way into kitchens near you.
  • Metal range hoods: Metals are in, and will most likely stick around for a while. Wood ranges are moving aside to make room for metal options.
  • Kitchen open to the living space: Those darned popular open floorplans are probably here to stay. An integrated kitchen and living space puts a focus on family time, and also the option of watching your kids (and the TV) while you cook.
  • Textures: Specifically a few textures that work together. Also, using the same texture in different patterns throughout the kitchen is trendy.
  • Some mid-century mod details: Simplicity, wood that’s light in color, and more.
  • Cabinetry with light: Light tape strips are great below cabinets, above them, inside them, and/or when paired with recessed can lights or other depths of light.
  • All-purpose bakeware: With more of an emphasis on functionality and multi-function capabilities, it’s no surprise these are popular.
  • Custom backsplash: Design-your-own tiles are en vogue. the options are never-ending.
  • Metallic accents: Rose gold, brass, and copper are used more for accents, fixtures, hardware, and more.
  • Galley kitchens: This is a trend of the past, and is back. This style makes moving around and completing tasks easier.
  • Functionality: Multi-taskers. Almost anything that can do this is popular.
  • Black and white palette: High-contrast palettes and accents are in; this color pairing included.
  • Unique, eye-pleasing light fixtures: Pendant lights, light fixtures over the island, and more can make great additions to your decor.
  • Storage maximization: People can’t always make their kitchens bigger, but they usually can, and do, acquire more things. This means more storage is necessary. The trend lately is to maximize storage space by finding creative, effective ways to go about this.
  • Farmhouse style: Apron-front sinks, hardwood floors (especially light hardwoods), open shelving, lots of windows, wood accents, a big wooden table, freestanding cabinetry, and more.
  • Hardwood floors: We’re seeing less linoleum and tile, and more of this.
  • White cabinets: A popular alternative to stained wooden cabinets.
  • (Hidden) docking stations: Families are more on-the-go than ever, and also more plugged in; it’s no wonder they want the ability to juice up their devices, wherever they are.
  • Wine refrigerators: Wine is trendy right now, and so is the storage for it.
  • Granite countertops: Yes, these have been a trend for quite a while already. However, they’ll probably stick around for a while longer.
  • Look-alike granite countertops: People have turned to granite look-alikes, like laminate counters with a granite pattern, to save their budgets.
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How to Cheaply Upgrade Your Yard

Your yard is an integral part of your home’s curb appeal. It’s what forms buyers’ first impressions, so it’s very important to make it look nice.

  • Fertilize the lawn: This is an easy, cheap solution that you can do yourself to make your yard look better. Fertilizer can help your grass grow, become greener, and kills weeds. If you fertilize your yard early in the season, it’s more likely to be cheaper. Don’t forget to water it in the early mornings following the fertilization.
  • Planting new tree/s: This has many advantages. First, trees prevent soil erosion and clean the air. Second, they can add curb appeal to your house if they’re the right kind. They also add shade, which can save you money on cooling your home once it grows taller. Just be sure to check where power lines and other important underground things lie.
  • Stain your deck: The weather and outside conditions can all take a toll on your house. Staining your deck can not only fix its appearance, but prevent those conditions from making it worse in the future. Don’t forget to power-wash it beforehand, and then put on at least two coats of stain.
  • Add a fountain: Fountains can add curb appeal, and also a tranquil sound. There are a lot of options out there, ranging from the size of a bird bath and up.
  • Replacing your fence: this can impact your curb appeal a lot. The price is largely variable based on the material you’ll be using. If you want to save some money, you can tear down your old fence yourself, but it’s recommended you let a professional install the new one.
  • Create a garden path: There is a multitude of ways to do this, including stepping stones surrounded by fescue, or laying out quarter-inch crushed rock to form the pathway. If you do it right, your yard will look better than ever.
  • Re-designing your patio: If you have a plain concrete patio, you can layer masonry stain or slate tiles on top for a more polished look.
  • Add a trellis or pergola: These can look great, especially if there’s a flowering vine climbing up the sides.
  • Add boulders: Especially if your yard doesn’t have enough dimension and/or texture, add these to give it extra “oomph”.
  • Mulch: Adding this can block out weeds, give your plants needed nutrients, and tie the features in your yard together.
  • Add lighting: From solar-powered lights that line a pathway, to rope lights that attach to the interior-side of garden edgers, some light can create a nice ambiance at dusk and night.
  • Paint lawn furniture: Those benches that look dingy and “blah” can be brought back to life with a coat of paint.
  • Edging: There are many options available, including stones, bricks, and more. This can dignify and polish up your yard a lot.
  • Plant: Bright flowers, succulents, and more. Whatever you choose, it will look great, and brighten up your yard.
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How to Create an Organized and Productive Home Office

It may be easier for your home office to get messier than a regular office, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Get your best work done with these tips.

  • Have a big calendar or message board on your wall. It will be somewhat of a decoration (or at least something to cover a blank wall) and be highly functional as well. It can also spur creativity if you decide to write quotes that inspire you on it, doodles, post pictures, etc. If you choose a white-board or magnetic chalkboard, you can stick magnets to it as well. Most importantly, you’ll get a quick, efficient reminder of what your schedule and/or to-do list looks like just by glancing up.
  • Build up. If you have a smaller home office, think about installing tall bookshelves to keep things in, as opposed to bulky filing cabinets or the like. Also think about having floating shelves, or any other wall-mounted fixture, like possibly a desk.
  • Organize your drawers. Drawer organizers are life-savers, especially if you’re good at creating junk-drawers. It won’t only save you time you would have spent trying to find something, but it will also keep your mind out of chaos mode.
  • Organize your cables. A mess of unruly cables gets in the way, and also creates visual clutter and chaos. Buy stick-on chord organizers or use Velcro strips, and label each chord with what it goes to.
  • Color-code. This works very well for filing cabinets, or really anything document-related. This is an option for labeling your chords too.
  • Create different zones. You’ll most likely work more efficiently if you have these task-related work zones that allow you to have a work “flow”. If things are grouped according to their purpose and what you’ll use at the same time, it will be easier to stay on track and work efficiently.
  • Have a paper station. Whatever you may need to do with documents and papers, like processing, reading, sorting, etc. You can organize this even further using baskets, trays, etc., but keep it all in one area. Having too much paper all over can drag any office down if it’s all over the place.
  • Don’t forget the upkeep. Schedule a block of time per day or week to tidy your home office up, and to get rid of papers, digital files, and for computer/technology maintenance.
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How to Buy a Home Fast

There are a lot of factors that can make the process of buying a home seem years-long. However, there definitely are certain ways to speed up this process.

  1. Check your credit reports and your credit score so you know what you’re working with. This will let you know if you need more time to build your credit, or to fix any mistakes.
  2. Choose an expert team. Your Realtor/s, closing attorney, mortgage banker, and whomever else will be assisting you in the process of buying your home, should be top notch.
  3. Get familiar with your chosen Realtor. They’ll know more about the market, both nationally and regional, and they will be able to tell you the best schools, neighborhoods, and help you with anything that comes up along the way. They’ll also generally have connections- to vendors, and to sources of knowledge about the newest constructions, etc.
  4. Get pre-approved for a home loan, not just pre-qualified. This could even put you at an advantage over a cash buyer who could be offering less money. So gather your paperwork and go get pre-approved so that you look like a serious, trustworthy buyer. They’ll need your W-2s, 1099s, and more.
  5. Search for homes in areas with high inventory. It takes less time to close in the process of buying a home when there’s less competition.
  6. Have a solid of list of what you want and what you don’t want. You’ll waste less time viewing houses trying to figure out what you like and don’t like.
  7. Sell your house before you buy another one. The separate processes will be easier than trying to handle both at the same time. Also, you’ll have a nice amount of equity in the bank, and flexibility with your closing date, which can put you above other buyers. If you can just temporarily put your things in storage and rent on a month-to-month basis, you can do this. You’ll also be mostly packed before you move!
  8. Be available to reply quickly to your agent and to any other cog in the process of buying your home.
  9. Your lender makes a difference. Many banks take around 45 days now, but 30 days is usually typical. Another factor that affects how fast the lender can work is when you get the inspection. It’s recommended to get it taken care of soon after you go under due diligence. The sooner this is taken care of, the sooner the lender can work their magic.